Customer Spotlight: Business Thrives Thanks to the “Perfect Pair of Jeans”

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For nearly twenty-two years, Alexander Loffeld was a successful businessman working initially as a sales agent for shoe company Lisa Tucci, before joining another designer shoe company as a top sales manager.  On the outside, things seemed to be going well.

Loffeld however was fed up.  Corporate bureaucracy and the grind of long hours and constant deadlines were finally wearing him down.  In 2009, Loffeld decided “enough is enough.”

“I basically had a breakdown, and in one week I sold nearly all of my possessions.  For the next two years, I basically lived a very relaxing life and let the previous twenty-two years of work stress evaporate from my body.”

After two years however, Loffeld was ready to return to the game.  This time however, he was going to start his own business, Hillbay Consultancy Ltd.  All he needed was a few tools to help him get started…

The Business

Hillbay is a consultancy for the shoe industry.  In addition to selling shoes under their own label, Hillbay provides design, production, and distribution for a variety of companies across Europe.

Hillbay Consultancy has an extensive network of shoe manufacturers operating around Italy and works with a variety of customers at various levels of shoe production.

The Challenge: A Company Rapidly Gaining Contacts Seeking a Simple CRM Solution

alex loffeld

Loffeld knew immediately after starting Hillbay Consulting that he needed a CRM solution.

He was rapidly making new contacts and had an existing large database of leads for which he needed a customizable and easy-to-use CRM solution.  As a startup company, Loffeld was also very price sensitive and could not afford to try out an expensive CRM solution only to find it unsuitable for his needs.

Loffeld’s primary challenge then was quickly finding a long term CRM solution that matched his rigid criteria.

Competitive Analysis of CRM Solutions

Loffeld had several years of experience with CRM prior to starting Hillbay Consultancy, and was thus very particular about two “must have” features:

Easy to Use – Because of the high volume of clients and Loffeld’s need to keep everything neatly organized, he did not want to waste time navigating through a complicated CRM solution.  Ease of use was essential.

Low Cost – As a startup, Loffeld was concerned with keeping costs low when selecting business software to integrate into his company.

Prior to using Zoho CRM, Loffeld had extensive experience with Exact Synergy’s CRM solution however he was less than satisfied.

Exact was quite difficult to use.  It needed a lot of hardware, was very difficult to learn, and was not very precise!  I needed something EASY!”

Discovering and Implementing Zoho CRM

Prior to Loffeld discovering Zoho CRM, he was already a user of Zoho Mail, so he was familiar with the company.  During his research into CRM solutions, he stumbled upon an article entitled “5 CRM Companies for You”

“I found an interesting article in a Dutch magazine which listed five different CRM solutions.  They touted Zoho VERY highly, and I somehow subconsciously was saving the ‘best for last.’  I tried every one of them with varying levels of satisfaction for the next two months until I finally realized I haven’t yet tried Zoho CRM itself!”

Having already tried out a number of CRM solutions, Loffeld was growing weary that he would find his ideal solution but was pleasantly surprised when he registered for Zoho CRM.

“I registered for Zoho CRM and after just a few hours, I knew this was it!”

But Loffeld didn’t stop with Zoho CRM.  As he began to grow comfortable with the interface and customizing it for Hillbay Consultancy’s needs, he began to discover other Zoho tools and solutions that integrate tightly with CRM.

“Once I imported all my clients, I began to brainstorm some different ways I could interact with them.  Then I discovered Zoho Campaigns, and integrated that with CRM to send mail out to my clients.”

As Loffeld dug deeper, he began finding value in a number of Zoho products.

“At the moment, I think I use everything of Zoho!  I use Zoho CRM, Campaigns, Sites, Invoice, Projects, and Mail.  Using these products together has made things even easier for me!  I also have begun integrating the mobile option which adds to the convenience.”

Life After Implementation

As soon as Loffeld decided that Zoho CRM was the solution for Hillbay Consultancy, he really “sunk his teeth in” and began taking advantage of Zoho CRM’s customizable features.

“I began optimizing Zoho CRM for myself by adding several custom fields, and grouping clients into separate groups.  To be honest, now I use every feature in CRM in addition to the new features that are added because everything is just so simple to learn.”

Hillbay Consulting is now thriving and has even started its own shoe label in addition to the existing consulting services.  With Zoho tightly integrated into the company, Hillbay has been steadily outgrowing and outperforming its competitors.

What You Like to Say to Other Customers about CRM Solutions?

“If I were to write my own perfect CRM software right now, it would be nearly identical to Zoho.  The BEST thing is that it’s so easy to use!  Zoho CRM is like a good pair of jeans that fits great when you try it on, and one year later is even more comfortable.  I now essentially have Zoho integrated in all aspects of Hillbay Consultancy and we are thriving.”

To learn more about Hillbay Consultancy, CLICK HERE

Using a CRM solution that most closely mirrors real life

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With a 15-month ramp up time, Louise Vincent needed Zoho CRM to manage all her relationships from designing her products, producing them, to ultimately determining who would be her buyers.

Business: Natural Hero Ltd – High performance natural recovery products for sports and fitness.

The challenge: Managing parallel developments working with plant scientists, physiotherapists, and cosmetic specialists. Plus have to think about who will the business serve.

“It’s that juggle between moving that business forward and developing as a business whilst also keeping fairly on top of the key issues of the people you’re working with,” Vincent said.

They were looking for a solution that could handle their relations with trade, with suppliers, and with the outside world. Prior to Zoho CRM Vincent wasted a lot of time with emails, documents, and spreadsheets.

How discovered Zoho: Talked to a lot of colleagues and got peer recommendations.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM: Didn’t try to setup everything at once. Using Zoho CRM has been very iterative and at each stage Vincent reflects back on what she has been learned allowing her to change if necessary. No configurations are set in stone, nor are they costly to change. When they decide they want to handle things differently nothing is lost as they shift processes.

Advice for others: Don’t get sucked into administrative nonsense, look at what actions (e.g., reports) will have impact to your bottom line. For example, the sales pipeline report shows potential customers and what level they’re at with regard to their potential income. This allows you to see who and what you need to focus on next.

“There’s something rather seductive about [administrative stuff] where you can enjoy just ticking things off without seeing what the end result is,” said Vincent. “Make sure you’re looking at the reports that are measuring impact rather than process.”

“Whatever relationship management system you use, and I recommend Zoho, make sure it links up with real life,” said Vincent. “Don’t get so caught up on the processes that you forget what you’re using it for.”

Listen to the complete interview with Louise Vincent here.

Begin customer relations before your business is up and running

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Bernt Ruetzel is literally building a small business. It’s a rental home in Italy, an old rustic home called Bogata Roggio. As he’s waiting for permits to start building, Ruetzel has launched a website and began engaging with prospective customers.

Here’s the rundown:

Business: Vacation home in Italy, Bogata Roggio.

The challenge: Initiate customer relations before business begins operations. Add custom fields specific to the needs of his customers.

How discovered Zoho: Stumbled on Zoho at his large company that wanted to use a CRM solution just for their department. He began playing around with it and realized it would be perfect to use for his small business.

Competitive analysis of CRM tools: He looked at and compared many CRM products including He feels that all the CRM systems are the same. What differentiates them is how easily can you customize the product for your specific business needs.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM: In Germany, school holidays change depending on what region of the country you live in. By asking a prospective customer their address and if they have kids, he can determine when they have free time to take a vacation. This allows him to better time his holiday requests and offers.

Advice for others: Ruetzel says users of CRM solutions need to spend more time upfront thinking about what you want to do rather than immediately implementing. It’s important to understand the entire process from getting a prospect, to sending an offering, getting pre-payment, final payment, follow up, and ultimately feeding those tips back into the system so he can improve his business process.

How do you want to follow with your customers? What are the steps you need to take? These will inform you as to what fields you’ll need to add to customize your CRM system, Ruetzel said.

Listen to the whole interview with Bernd Ruetzel here.

Your contacts are the assets of your business – protect them

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Jody Johnson is the CEO of Action Coach in Miami, Florida. She needed a CRM solution not only for managing prospects but also for her work with her clients, business owners.

Business: Action Coach, Team Sage is a franchise member of a worldwide business coaching franchise with about 1,000 offices around the world. They help business owners fix their processes of time, team, and money.

The challenge: Keeping track and managing correspondence with all clients.

“The client and prospect base is the asset of most businesses. If you don’t have that documented somewhere that’s a huge asset that’s not accounted for in the business,” said Johnson.

How discovered Zoho: Learned about Zoho from the CEO of Action Coach of the Americas. Johnson now recommends Zoho to all of her clients.

Competitive analysis of Zoho: They had gone through two other content management programs that failed them because they either didn’t work with Outlook or weren’t customizable.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM: Manage everyone and everything all in one place: from prospects to current clients with all different kinds of correspondence (e.g., newsletter, emails). Johnson’s team facilitates communications by utilizing more than two dozen email templates.

Can track progress, see bottlenecks, and identify how certain business will affect their revenues.

Advice for others: Johnson started with Zoho three years ago. If she could do it all over again, she would have hired a Zoho consultant to simply tell her and her team all the things Zoho can do. For example, just last year they began utilizing the “Potentials” feature which allows you to indicate what a sale would be worth therefore allowing you to see which potentials would have the greatest revenue impact on the business.

“Most business owners don’t have a way of tracking a customer list or prospect list. They don’t have an integrated way or holistic way of reaching out to them,” said Johnson who sees this on a daily basis working with businesses. “A contact management system of any kind is really important.”

Your customer list and prospect list is the asset of the business. If that isn’t documented somewhere, then that’s not a sellable business. You need to protect that contact and communications information like you would a bank account, Johnson said.

Listen to her interview here.

Online CRM lets everyone have up-to-the-minute visibility into company wisdom

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For ten years Luis Gardolinski had been keeping tabs on his contacts. But it wasn’t easy. Managing them across his team and synchronizing them has always been a manual, delayed, and not always accessible process.


Luis Gardolinski is the CEO of Startrade, a company that builds software and equipment for logistics, specifically planning loads and new packages.

The Challenge:

Since 2001, Luis Gardolinksi always knew he needed some type of CRM solution. He spent so much time relying on paper and memory to manage clients and prospects.

Gardolinski’s first foray into contact management and CRM was the software package Act. While Act was useful, all the data was tied to a specific physical machine. In order to capture information in the company’s contact database, salespeople had to return to the office and recopy their day’s notes onto a computer that had Act installed. Once entered all that information had to be synchronized.

The wisdom of the company was always back at the office, sitting on an Act machine. And the information was always delayed by at least one day, as everyone had to wait for colleagues to enter their data and synchronized. While employees were out and about they never had a full view of what was going on in the office, said Gardolinski.

Even though Act had a myopic view at the time, Startrade used it for about seven years. It was pretty good for what they needed at the time. Although ultimately Gardolinski knew he needed an online solution.

We must be able to see what’s going on with each client at each stage of the sales cycle, said Gardolinski. He always wanted to know, “How far are we along to closing?” While he could do this with Act, he needed something that everyone could access anywhere and always be up to date.

How discovered Zoho:

Gardolinksi’s business and employees were becoming more mobile. A few years ago he moved them all over to using Google Apps and email, and tested a couple of other CRM solutions of which he can’t even remember. He landed on Zoho and chose to move over, but it wasn’t that easy.

It’s always a challenge when you change a piece of software you’ve been using for seven years to something else, Gardolinksi said.

Competitive analysis of CRM:

All the CRM solutions Startrade was looking at were either too fancy, more than they needed, or far too expensive. What really sold Gardolinski on Zoho was the speed of customer service he got especially upon testing the free service. After sending a request he got a response in 30 minutes and the problem was solved over the next 30 minutes.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

Now that all his information was online, Gardolinski and his team could travel wherever they wanted and have complete access to all the company data. This freed everyone from being locked to the office or wasting time with double entry.

Bringing the data over from Act wasn’t as easy as Gardolinski thought it would be. Looking back at it now he would have paid for a direct import from Act. But in actuality he saw the difficulty or importing his data as an opportunity to refresh it. He realized a lot of his information was really stale and this forced him to pick up the phone and call new and old clients, renewing relationships and contact information.

Advice for others: 

Even if you can import your data easily, don’t just import everything, advises Gardolinski. Use the move to a new system as an opportunity to renew your database like he did. Call your clients and update all their information.

It takes more time, but it’s worth it to do it right, Gardolinksi said.

Listen to the interview here.

Do you adopt CRM or does CRM adopt you?

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As Philippe Bogard started growing his scientific consulting business, he began collecting thousands of leads. While he did a great job making first contact, he failed with the critical follow up. He struggled to find a solution to collect and manage those leads. He initially started with a Microsoft Access database, but he knew he needed a better solution.


Back in 2004, Philippe Bogard launched a consulting business, Proteomics Consult. Proteomics (check it out on Wikipedia) is the science of discovering proteins. If your genes are your body’s blueprint, then the proteins are the elements that travel across that blueprint.

The Challenge:

In the early days of his business, Bogard had only two major clients. At that time it was fairly easy to manage his business relations without a CRM solution. Problem was even though his client roster was short, the leads he was collecting, from all the conferences he was attending, was growing into the thousands.

Bogard tried to manage all the new leads through a Microsoft Access database, but that was just tying all his contacts to a single computer. If he didn’t have access to that physical machine, he couldn’t update or access anything.

How discovered Zoho:

No dramatic story here. He just searched for a CRM solution on the Internet and found Zoho.

Competitive analysis of CRM:

Bogard’s first real experience managing contacts was with Microsoft CRM. His client at the time was using the relationship management tool so he became familiar with it and tried it for his own business. Unfortunately, and a tad too ironic, was that Microsoft CRM couldn’t seamlessly import Bogard’s contacts from Microsoft Access.

Admittedly not that tech savvy, Bogard reached out to Microsoft for help and they wanted $1,500 to do the import for him.

Microsoft CRM was also costly in terms of physical management, said Bogard. For his client that did use Microsoft CRM, they had only five salesmen, yet they still needed to hire a person full time to manage Microsoft CRM.

For those who argue that Microsoft CRM is easy to work with, Bogard agrees…if you have it properly set up. But that can be very costly in terms of time, energy, and money, said Bogard remembering when his client upgraded Microsoft CRM from version 3 to version 4.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

Unlike the headache he had with Microsoft CRM, it took Bogard only two hours to import 7,000 of his Microsoft Access contacts into Zoho CRM. That happy user experience, especially for an admitted non-techy, was what sold Board on Zoho CRM. After he finished the import he realized he probably could have done it even faster if he signed up for the paid version. But since he was initially testing the free solution, he could only import 1,000 contacts at a time.

Improved efficiency:

Bogard is thrilled with how efficient he has become now that he’s adopted CRM into his daily routine. Or more how CRM has adopted him.

Unlike in his Microsoft Access days, Bogard has a better view of what’s going on with his business. “When you contact customers you easily forget to call a customer back in a couple of months,” Bogard said. “I don’t forget anything with CRM, it reminds it for me.”

If Bogard didn’t have a CRM solution he believes he’d be wasting an additional two hours every day just trying to make sense of his contacts and their current status. And that time and the reminders are precious to Bogard. Being almost sixty he admits that his memory is getting worse.

“Having a system that’s thinking for me is beautiful,” Bogard said.

Do you adopt CRM or does CRM adopt you? by zoho

The WSJ Interviews Sridhar Vembu

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At The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Jeremy Caplan has some good questions for Sridhar. Excerpts from the interview ‘Q&A: Upstart Takes on Google, Microsoft in the Cloud‘:

Both Google and Microsoft have committed significant resources to building Web-based software. How can you compete?
The primary advantage Google and Microsoft have is their size and reach, which is a formidable advantage. Google’s product suite is limited to Mail & Office suite, while Zoho has a much broader product suite
targeted at small and mid-sized businesses. We integrate well with everyone, including with Google Apps.

Microsoft has formidable technology resources, but faces the economic challenge of transitioning their business model to the cloud, without sacrificing revenue in the process. In the small and mid-sized market,
there is room for multiple players, as companies like Intuit and Adobe have demonstrated even as they have faced repeated challenges from Microsoft.

How will cloud software differ three years from now?
Over the next three years, you will see cloud offerings really mature in terms of features and functions, and become feature rich, overtaking desktop offerings in many areas. As feature parity is reached, market adoption will explode. Just as mobile phones overtook wired phones in terms of features, functions and of course usage over the past 10 years, cloud software will overtake installed software over the next 10. The reason in both cases is the sheer speed of technology evolution.

Thanks to Jeremy and The WSJ.